While trying to find some new and exciting information on berries, a little research revealed some interesting facts about berries. For instance, there are “true” berries (avocados, barberries, currants, gooseberries, grapes, pineapple and tomatoes) and “false” berries such as blueberries, cranberries and huckleberries. What most of us think of as berries are actually “berry-like” compound fruits such as blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, mulberries, raspberries and strawberries. Who knew?

No matter what botanical family berries belong to, who doesn't love the small, brightly colored, juicy fruits we call berries? Besides tasting delicious and being a quick and easy food to prepare, berries are also nutritional powerhouses, often referred to as super foods. Experts suggest eating a serving of berries two times per week to get the most benefit.

BLACKBERRIES: composed of about 80 percent water and healthful fiber, these berries can contribute to weight loss, lower an elevated cholesterol levels or manage type II diabetes. The folate in blackberries may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and as an added bonus helps maintain healthy hair. The rich blue-black color indicates exceptionally high levels of healthful antioxidants.

STRAWBERRIES: providing 160 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C for immune support, strawberries are also rich in folate, fiber and potassium (for healthy blood pressure). The red anthocyanins in strawberries help protect cells from damage by harmful molecules. Strawberries are also a source of essential vitamins B1 and B5 (pantothenic acid) for energy, as well as manganese for bone growth. Enjoy a delicious strawberry along with dark chocolate for a delightful treat.

RASPBERRIES: abundant in antioxidants, raspberries are particularly noted for their content of ellagic acid, a potent cancer fighter. High in fiber (4 g per 1/2 cup), vitamin C, manganese and niacin, raspberries have a mild flavor but a powerful nutritional impact. Try sprinkling raspberries with balsamic vinegar for a truly incredible flavor combination.

BLUEBERRIES: phytonutrients in blueberries protect cells from damage that may lead to cataracts, glaucoma, peptic ulcers, heart disease and even cancer. Also a good source of vitamin C, blueberries are an excellent source of manganese for cell production. Eating blueberries may protect the brain from oxidative stress and help guard against age-related dementia. Blueberries are one of the truly “blue” foods. How about enjoying some blueberry pancakes for breakfast this weekend!

Besides all the ways fresh berries can be used, don't forget to stock up on frozen berries for use in making smoothies, jams or jellies, pies, muffins and fruit salads. Try blending frozen berries with a little sweetener and use to top ice cream, mix into Greek yogurt or even serve on pancakes and waffles with a dollop of light whipped cream. Here's a great recipe using fresh berries; enjoy!

Berry salsa with cinnamon chips

All you need: 1 (6 oz.) package fresh raspberries, gently rinsed

1 pint (2 cups) fresh strawberries, rinsed, stems removed, then quartered

2 kiwi, washed, peeled and diced

1 Golden Delicious apple, washed, peeled (if desired, but leaving peel on retains more healthy fiber) and diced

2 tablespoons strawberry preserves

6 whole-wheat tortillas

Olive oil pan spray

1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (1/4cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon cinnamon)

All You Do: 1. In a large bowl, combine raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, apple and strawberry preserves. Cover and chill for 15-30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray one side of each multigrain tortilla with olive oil spray to coat lightly.

3. Transfer sprayed tortilla to cutting board and cut into “chip-sized” wedges with a pizza cutter or scissors, then arrange in a single layer on baking sheet(s). Sprinkle wedges lightly with cinnamon sugar mixture. Spray lightly again to help the sugar stick.

4. Bake 8-12 minutes or until crispy but not overly brown. Remove baking sheet(s) from the oven and allow chips to cool, about 15 minutes.

5. Serve with chilled berry mixture. Serves 7.

Source: Adapted from hy-vee.com

Nutrient Facts: Per serving: 220 calories, 45 g carbohydrates (7 g dietary fiber, 19g sugars) 4 g protein, 3 g fat, 260 mg sodium

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.